Halton council are struggling to recruit foster carers within the borough, forcing them to spend thousands on expensive out-of-area residential placements.
A worrying Children and Young people’s report, to be addressed at a meeting on Monday, reveals there has been a “significant reduction” in the
number of foster carers within Runcorn and Widnes.
This is forcing the council to seek out-of-area placements which are almost three times more expensive than in house placements per week – putting huge pressures on the children’s services budget.
The report reveals that while expenditure relating to in house foster carer payments is below budget because of low recruitment numbers, costs relating to out of borough fostering placements are soaring.
This is expected to be the case for the rest of the financial year, despite the department being given an additional budget of £1,000,000.
The report states: “Every effort is made to utilise in house foster carers where possible, but due to the lack of available foster carers in the borough that is not always possible, especially if a young person has specific health needs, therefore out of borough placements need to be sought at a higher weekly cost.
“The average weekly cost for an in house foster placement is £287.43 and the average cost for an out of borough foster placement is £814.17.
“This means that the average cost of an out of borough placement is 183%
higher than the average cost of an in house placement.”
This budget pressure comes as more and more children enter the service and demand increases.
The report reveals that in quarter two of the financial year, there were an additional 10 children who entered the service at an annual cost of £211,796.
Revealing the staggering cost of care, it says that this included a sibling group of four children whose total cost for the remainder of the financial year is £103,241 and two groups of two siblings whose total cost for the remainder of the financial year is £105,20.
In light of these worrying figures, plans are in place to recruit more local foster carers and make savings.
The report states that efforts to combat this include joining a collaborative fostering service with Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East
and Warrington Councils.
Over time it is hoped that this collaboration will increase the number of
foster carers recruited , as well as improve the quality of service offered to them across all authorities.
The report states that initiatives are also being addressed in house to increase the number of foster carers as a way of saving funds in the long run.
It says: “It is envisaged that increasing the number of in house foster carers will reduce the need to place children with out of borough foster carers and within residential placements, this will go some way to addressing the
financial pressures within the service.”